Waiting for Christmas!
As a child growing up in Unionville, PA, I remember Christmas “waiting” with my 5 siblings as a time that took way too long and might never get here. But mom and dad were poor and they made it a time for Santa wishes, stockings (real, not fancy ones) hanging by the fireplace, a nicely lit and decorated tree, visits to and from family, and a special occasion in many ways. They loved us, and Christmas day included the opening of a couple of gifts, retrieving the orange, nuts and candy from our stockings, and a special dinner.
I lived with my parents in the village until I graduated from Goldey Beacom College in 1954, at which time l moved to Washington, D.C. and worked for the FBI for two years and decided to follow my sister, Ruth, back to Unionville. I attended Unionville Presbyterian (one that was within walking distance from my home) until 1960. I was baptized, became a member, and still never experienced Advent.
In 1960 I married George Ulary, moved to North East, where I had spent long summers at Red Point Beach in my family’s cottage, and became a member (where I was married) of Harts Methodist Church. George had been a member of this church since being carried to services on a pillow as a baby. We attended with our three girls until the Hills moved in as neighbors and Father Shand became the priest at St. Mary Anne’s. We enjoyed amazing adult Bible lessons from Emma Wood, Ethel Leverdge, and Florence Ulary, but still no Advent. We began letting our three girls go to youth group meetings with our neighbor, Melissa Hill, after her confirmation with Father Shand. All three baptized and confirmed as Episcopalians. We took turns attending church as a family, sometimes one of us would go to SMA — mostly me!
I became an Episcopalian in 1982 and was introduced to the season of Advent. Thanks be to God!
I found my Christian family and home. Christmas Eve service was smells, bells, and all the pomp worthy of a birthday celebrating a king. It was awesome! The waiting was worth the best gift everyone should have. God lit up my life when he sent the Lord Jesus Christ to me. It is the only hope for each of us, and it is the only gift I wish for you all! No more waiting is necessary! Merry Christmas!
I love the story of Mary and have read many books about her but recently for some reason I’ve started to think about Joseph. Perhaps it’s because I have a good husband, sons, a son-in-law, grandsons, a grandson-in-law, and my sweet great grandson Henry that I wondered how difficult that time must have been for Joseph. He was, from all accounts, a good Christian man who was a carpenter by trade and engaged to a younger woman when she tells him she is expecting a child and that he is not the father. Not only that but an angel appeared and told him God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. Can you imagine his thoughts and his heavy burden of deciding what to do? I’m sure he had many questions and doubts about what Mary and his future would hold.
Wow –that was a lot to handle!
He could have publicly shamed Mary and broken their engagement but he didn’t.
Mary and Joseph were married as planned – perhaps a little sooner than planned. Sometime after the wedding and before the birth of the baby they had to travel to Bethlehem for the census and to pay their taxes. They walked from Nazareth to Bethlehem and along the way Mary goes into labor – they don’t know anyone, there were no rooms to be rented and Mary gives birth in a barn! I wonder if he had to assist in the birth? And still Joseph is by Mary’s side. Eventually they are able to return home and raise their family.
There isn’t a lot more we know about Joseph and there is no mention of him when Jesus was crucified so I think he died prior to Jesus death or we would have read of his being at Mary’s side.
What a wonderful love story and what a good man! Joseph certainly loved and trusted God and Mary.
On an Advent wreath the four Sundays of the Season are represented by one pink and three purple candles. There is also a white candle that represents the Christ Child that is lit on Christmas Eve. The pink candle that is lit on the third Sunday of Advent, or Rose Sunday, is the day we honor Jesus’ mother Mary.
For many years we have done “Voices of Mary” on Rose Sunday, and it’s one of my favorite events that we have at Saint Mary Anne’s. I have had the privilege of participating many times and have enjoyed it tremendously. I started out years ago as one of the more youthful versions of Mary but have now progressed to one of the much older versions!
The reflections from Mary’s life start with her as an innocent little girl full of life, love and hope. It continues on with Mary as an adolescent and when she is told by an angel that she has been chosen by God to bear his only begotten son. Next, Mary is portrayed at the time just after the birth of her child, our Savior, and she is filled with love and wonder at the miraculous baby that she has borne. Eventually, Mary is seen as a middle-aged woman who worries about her beloved child and his path in life. She is concerned about the ruthless people who see him as a threat to their power by his teachings and ministries. She worries tremendously for his safety. All the phases of Mary’s life reflections are narrated by an old and wise version of Mary. A mother who has known the greatest joy and the greatest sorrow a woman can experience. It is this Mary that I got to play the last time we did “Voices of Mary” and of all the times I’ve participated this was by far the hardest and most moving. As the narrator you experience all of the highs and lows that Mary experienced in her lifetime. I found my voice breaking and my eyes tearing as I read her thoughts aloud.
A Mother’s love is the greatest of all loves and Mary’s heart was broken when they crucified her son. Mary’s broken heart humanizes her because everyone can relate to losing someone they love, especially those that have lost a child. The Christmas season can be a terribly emotional time for those that are suffering from grief, addiction or depression. This year in particular will be very hard on many people as the world copes with the pandemic, social justice issues and civil unrest.
As we celebrate and make merry this Advent and Christmas season, let us remember and reach out to comfort those that are suffering emotionally during this time.
In Celtic Spirituality there is a term used to describe places where the earth and the sky seem to touch each other. Thin Spaces are locales where the distance between heaven and earth collapses and you are able to catch glimpses of the divine or the transcendent or as one theologian has described it, the Infinite Whatever.
When you find a Thin Space, you will know it is unique, it will be special for you and it will be like being on sacred ground. It will bring to a standstill the rush of life. The awareness of the divine will leave a lasting image on your soul, your heart and your mind.
My Thin Space has always been at St. Mary Anne’s on Christmas Eve. From our very first Christmas, 45 years ago, Lynne and I have always been very aware of the beauty and majesty of this Thin Space and presence of the Divine that transcends reality on this holy night.
Walking across the church yard to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus, I have always believed that in those special moments I could embrace the divine nature of God. The singing of carols, the readings of the Holy Scripture, the celebration of the Eucharist and being with believers creates that place of Infinite Whatever.
Thin Space is truly the place where heaven and earth touch, where God connects with family and love becomes more than just a word. It becomes reality.
As we prepare for the coming of Jesus, be alert for the Thin Spaces in your lives and rejoice in the power of Jesus who brings love, peace and joy.
God bless you always,
Bud and Lynne Shand
Grant that the same light enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives. (BCP)
The Christmas season was a busy time in our household. Both Mom and Dad worked long hours in the post office, and Christmas Day was truly a day of rest.
However, we always had a “Parkhill” family Christmas party sometime during the holiday. Roads were often closed with drifted snow, much to our glee, as this meant a sleigh ride into the farmyard. One year – at my young age of 8 or 9, my father suggested we walk thru the woods, rather than trying to struggle thru snow drifts. A big full moon, which seemed to light our path, guided us from tree to tree – and an old owl, watched from a distance, making his presence known.
I often think of the Christmas story and visualize the wise men – seeing a star, in the horizon with the message of His birth.
Mary currently resides at Calvert Manor. Please remember her in your Advent prayers.